THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Over the past few months, city residents, especially women, have been afraid to step out of their homes fearing motorcycle and car-borne miscreants. In fact, a mysterious gang has unleashed a nightmare among the residents, who are now reluctant to go out even for a morning stroll. The chain-snatchers are finding the city a safe haven as they stalk morning walkers and women, with little counter action by the police.
On Sunday, a motorcycle-borne youngster snatched the gold chain from a 70-year-old woman, Kamalamma, at Kannammoola.
Though the City Police had launched a bike patrolling wing named ‘ Booster Patrol’ last year to keep a check on gangs engaging in snatching, it has reportedly not been functioning actively. The patrol was an initiative jointly put forward by Thiruvananthapuram Range IG Manoj Abraham and City Police Commissioner H Venkatesh.
Sources pointed out that had the Booster Patrol worked properly and efficiently, much of chain-snatching cases and robberies in broad daylight could have been prevented. “To my knowledge, there is an apathy on the part of the local police in carrying out patrolling on bikes exclusively for nabbing chain-snatchers. In many of the police stations in the city, there is a huge shortage of bikes”, said Chandrasekharan Nair, a retired police official and resident of the city for over three decades.
‘’Most of the snatching cases are reported early in the morning, when the police patrolling activities are nil. It is also learnt that the snatchers are cleverly operating during the ‘satta’ time of the police - that is when all the officials will be changing their duties from night to day shifts. Hence, the City Police should come up with a permanent solution or intensify the Booster Patrol activities for effectively curbing the chain-snatching cases,’’ he added.
For Booster Patrol, the City Police had classified various parts of the city on the basis of crime rate. The police have over 50 bikes for patrolling. But, a majority of the vehicles are not in working condition. Besides, the Booster squad was divided into three - meant for Prevention, Surveillance and Detection. But the functioning of the squad has been severely curtailed now and it responds only after a crime occurs. Residents also point out that the ‘prevention’ part is not happening and police have failed miserably when it comes to nabbing the snatchers.
An analysis of recent snatching cases reveals that 60 per cent of the criminals arrested for such crimes were first-time offenders and 40 per cent of them were either illiterate or school dropouts. Majority of them are juveniles,” a senior police officer said, adding that involvement of juveniles and students in their early 20s in these crimes has increased in recent years for earning quick bucks.
According to police sources, many of the police stations could not deploy more personnel to prevent such incidents owing to staff crunch. “A big snatcher gang is operating in the city. They are well-planned and carry out the crime using stolen vehicles,” they said.
‘KAAPA will be Imposed’
Meanwhile, City Police Commissioner H Venkatesh told ‘City Express’ that KAAPA would be slapped on the culprits in order to effectively curb the snatching incidents.
“As the chain snatching incidents are on the rise in the city, we are going to impose KAAPA on the culprits. In fact, it is the only way to curb the crime. In many of the cases registered in the past, several culprits were released on bail a few days after they were taken into custody. So, there are legal loopholes for them to escape. KAAPA can bring about a change to some extent,’’ he said.
Regarding Booster Patrol, Venkatesh said that some of the police officials assigned for the task were often shifted to other law and order activities regularly owing to personnel requirements. “Last week onwards, we have resumed the operations of Booster Patrol and there will be round-the-clock surveillance in the city in the coming days”, he added.
Visuals of Suspect Obtained
The City Police, on Monday, obtained the CCTV footage of the man who had grabbed the chain of a 70-year-old woman at Kannammoola. The Commissioner said that the culprit would be arrested soon as his face was clearly visible in the footage and that the entire gang behind the snatching would be brought to book at the earliest.